|Dale Steyn helped South Africa out of trouble taking four wickets after positive start from Australia [GALLO/GETTY]|
Australia were bowled out for 296 under an onslaught from South Africa paceman Dale Steyn on Friday, throwing away a dominant position on day two of the second Test at Wanderers.
Australia faded after a 174-run opening partnership from Shane Watson and Phillip Hughes had given the tourists early control of a match they must win to save a two-Test series in which they trail 1-0.
Australia added just 122 more runs after the stand between Watson (88) and Hughes (88) was finally broken to hold a first-innings lead of 30 when it looked set for a much bigger advantage.
Steyn took 4-64 and Pakistan-born legspinner Imran Tahir 3-55 for his first Test wickets to drag Australia back into the game after Watson and Hughes had hammered South Africa’s famed pace attack in the morning session.
South Africa had to face an uncomfortable few minutes before stumps was called, with Graeme Smith blocking out four balls before bad light ended another topsy-turvy day in a rollercoaster series.
“I know it’s disappointing,” Hughes said.
“Once you get in you want to cash in as a batsman but we have been seeing clumps (of wickets) fall.
“It was good to get runs and it was good to have that partnership with Shane… but disappointing for both of us not to cash in and get a big 150.”
‘Staring down the barrel’
Only Mitchell Johnson showed prolonged resistance after Watson and Hughes exited, hitting six fours in his unbeaten 38 from No. 8 to ensure Australia pushed ahead – but only just.
“The boys are pretty stoked about that,” Steyn said, “because we were staring down the barrel at one stage with them being 170-odd without loss and we needed a big push by the bowlers. The guys definitely stepped up and did it.”
Australia have won their last four series in South Africa and haven’t lost a Test contest here since 1970.
They now have to start again on Saturday after South Africa’s afternoon burst brought the teams level again.
“You always want more but we’ve got a little bit of confidence going in with that 30 run lead behind us, we have got to start well tomorrow,” Hughes said.
|Imran Tahir celebrates the wicket of Peter Siddle of Australia who was out for a duck [GALLO/GETTY]|
Much like the dramatic and rapid opening Test at Cape Town – which ended inside three days – wickets have tumbled in sudden spells in the second match and it has swung one way and then the other.
Through the two days, both teams have again been outstanding and then outplayed, almost in equal measure.
Australia lost 10 wickets for 127 runs after lunch on Friday after ending the first session in an overwhelmingly dominant position at 169-0 thanks to its openers.
On Thursday, South Africa lost 6-25 in the afternoon to crash from a promising 241-4 to 266.
Watson and Hughes started Australia’s reply in scintillating style on the second day as they attacked with a flurry of boundaries, bringing up a 100-run partnership in just 128 balls and going at over five runs an over.
Australia reached 150 for no wicket off 179 balls – incredibly quick scoring for a Test.
But South Africa clawed their way back into the match after lunch, crucially removing Hughes and Watson in fairly quick succession – and then Ricky Ponting (0) and Michael Clarke (11) – as Australia slowed suddenly.
The Aussies added just 51 runs to their score between lunch and tea and Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel found their range after they had been wicketless, toothless and expensive before lunch.
Hughes hit 14 fours in his 111-ball knock, but fell three overs after lunch when he tried to cut too close to his body and sent an edge off Philander to AB de Villiers at slip.
Allrounder Watson slammed 14 fours and two sixes, shrugging off a right hamstring injury sustained on day one to punish South Africa. He went 18 runs after Hughes to a diving catch by Tahir at square leg off Jacques Kallis.
Former skipper Ponting failed again when he was lbw to Steyn for a duck and Clarke was out toward the end of the middle session as Morne Morkel forced another edge to De Villiers.
By then, South Africa and Steyn sensed Australia’s fragility.
Steyn had Usman Khawaja lbw and bowled Mike Hussey (20) with an inswinger two overs and five runs later.
Legspinner Tahir then grabbed two wickets in two balls to have Australia 255-8 – when they were surprisingly still behind South Africa despite the heroics from Watson and Hughes.
Johnson was responsible for taking Australia to the brink of 300, and a lead, as he decided to hit out with full-blooded drives through the covers.
But Steyn got rid of debutant Pat Cummins, and although the No. 1-ranked Test bowler was denied a five-wicket haul when a catch was put down by a substitute fielder, Tahir ended Australia’s innings soon after.